A Tale of Two Classrooms

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Robyn F.

In 1983, the world was forever changed. The Internet was born, and since then, we can’t seem to live without it. Later, WiFi was created further changing and amping up the use of technology in society. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between the Spanish education system and that of the United States is the use of technology. In the United States, our lessons are tied to technology. We are always using presentations or videos, computers or tablets. But in Madrid, at least at my school, teachers rarely use technology. They use chalkboards and whiteboards, books and CD players. As we are all a part of this technology dependent society, let me tell you about how technology distinctly manifests itself on two opposite sides of that society. 

Memphis, USA:

It was a cold winter day in my classroom in Memphis, Tennessee. I arrived at school amidst a drizzle of rain and a gust of wind. As I walked into the building to clock-in, I noticed the clock-in system was down. But that was not a problem because we had a paper sign-in sheet as well. So I checked my box and headed up to my classroom. As I got to the top of the stairs, my coworker was standing outside her classroom, and the first thing she said was, “The internet is out.” Great. My lesson for that day was accompanied by a presentation and a video clip to help engage my squirrely fourth-graders. Luckily, it was only 7:30 and school started at 8:15. I still had plenty of time to adjust the lesson. By 7:40, another coworker had come into my room to tell me the internet was out. By 7:45, the principal had made an all-call to let everyone know the internet was out. By 7:50, two technicians had come into my room to check the connection. By 8:00 the technicians had returned to check the connection. And by 8:05, everything was up and running smoothly. No need to change my lesson after all.

Madrid, España:

It was a cold winter day in my school in Madrid, Spain. I arrived at school amidst a drizzle of rain and a gust of wind. As I walked into the building, I said hola to my coworkers and put my belongings away. I headed to my first class where we did a speaking activity. I wrote the main steps of the activity on the chalkboard, as I had grown accustomed. When the bell rang, I erased the board and headed to my second class. I had planned another speaking activity with the prompts already written on a presentation, to save time from writing them on the board. I went to pull up the presentation, and...the internet was out. No problem, this happened often. I changed the plan and wrote the prompts on the chalkboard. The following day, the same problem occurred. But again, it was not a big issue. I was already prepared, thinking that the internet would likely be out again. One week. That’s how long the internet was out. That’s how long it took for the technicians to come in and fix the connection. And the teachers didn’t miss a beat. Half of them didn’t even notice the internet was out because they never even use it. Chalkboards and textbooks work just fine here.

I tell these two stories to highlight one of the differences between the education systems in the United States and Spain. Schools in the United States would not function without internet for a week, yet my school in Spain constantly goes without. It’s a debate for a different post, but it is interesting to think about the essentiality of internet for learning. Does having technology and internet mean you have a better education? Or can your education be just as sufficient without the latest smartboards? Needless to say, as I finish out this first year in Spain, I have grown accustomed to finding white chalk on my sleeves, pants, and masks and to constantly hearing the phrase "No hay internet".